Illegal immigrants in South Africa are a major issue. At any given time, there are approximately 5 million illegal immigrants in South Africa at present however this is an approximation at best. Of the 5 million, Visa SA claims that nearly 3million of those are from Zimbabwe.
The quality of life in Zimbabwe has deteriorated of the last few decades due to Robert Mugabe’s rule and abusive of power. As a result, thousands of people are fleeing the country daily in order to make a better life for themselves in South Africa. One of the reasons why there are so many Zimbabwean illegal immigrants is because their access to South Africa is easy. South Africa shares a border with Zimbabwe and with enough determination, many Zimbabweans cross the Limpopo River, or scale and climb over fences. What is more is that there are even “immigration agents” who assist in the illegal entry in to the country. These agents will, for a small fee of course, will take you to a place where it is easy to get across the border.
There are major dangers associated with entering SA. Initially illegal immigrants in South Africa come here to look for sanctuary, however many of them are faced with obscurity. Firstly, they have to cross the border where there may be animal predators. Many of the spots where the border is crossable are in to the Kruger National Park and its surrounding parks. These parks contain the big 5 and as a result there is a possibility of being attacked by wild animals. Even the Limpopo River is not a safe place as its crocodile infested waters can be deadly for some.
Even after the initial trauma of getting in to the country without being eaten by a lion or crocodile, they still have to face the trauma of leaving their homes behind and coming to a foreign country. As the xenophobic attacks in 2008 showed, not everyone is happy about the illegal immigration of people in to South Africa. The reason for this is that often illegal immigrants will offer their services at a much lower rate than South African workers. This can result in these foreign nationals obtaining work over the local people. This is what led to the xenophobic attacks.
In conjunction with not only having had to deal with wildlife, and xenophobia, illegal immigrants are not protected by the law in South Africa. Many have claimed that they have been beaten and attacked but cannot report it to the police due to the fact that they do not have all of their papers in order. Another issue that they are faced with is that should they apply for residency in South Africa, there are 5 million other people trying to do the same and this could lead to them being exiled back to their own country where they will face prosecution from their governments.
All in all, being an illegal immigrant is not easy. You have to realise however that these people see potential not only for themselves in this country, but in the country itself else they would have fled to another one of their neighbouring countries. Although it is leading to less job creation for the local South Africans, maybe it will help us to stop feeling so entitled to decent jobs and high wages.
We need to realise that we cannot get everything that we want when we want it, as illegal immigrants have realised. From this we need to learn that we have to work hard to get where we want to be and if that means you get off your bum and do something, even if it is meaningless work, you wouldn’t be so afraid of illegal immigrants coming and taking your job. Instead you would try and help them find their feet in this country and show them what it is all about.